Weekly Update May 18-25

Central Delaware Overlay legislation not introduced by city council “deadline.”

Zoning legislation creating the Central Delaware Waterfront Overlay was not introduced at Thursday’s city council meeting. So unless council adds an extra session, there can be no new overlay in place before summer break.  “There are still some questions,” First District City Councilman Mark Squilla said when asked why the introduction didn’t happen. “If we add another session, we can squeeze it in. If not, it will have to wait till fall.”
     CDAG members don’t think the draft does enough to protect several principles of the master plan, including waterfront access and the extension of the street grid. In fact, CDAG Chairman Matt Ruben said last week he wasn’t certain the draft would make much of a differences, versus not having one in place.
   Council’s inability to pass the new zoning overlay before going on break would not necessarily mean that some overlay – either the existing, interim one, or a new one – would not be in effect, however.  City planners say that once the new city zoning code goes into effect Aug. 22, the interim overlay will no longer exist. Right now, there is a blank place holder in the new zoning code for a new overlay, so in effect, the planners say, there would be no overlay until a new one were in effect.

     This is what waterfront advocates have feared.  But Squilla said that Deputy Planning Commission Executive Director Eva Gladstein  told him that should it not be possible for the new overlay to pass through council before summer break, an amendment could be added to the pending zoning code clean-up bill (Zoning Bill 120431) to keep the interim protections in place until a new overlay is passed.

 

Another zoning bill already introduced might also work, but not just any bill would, Gladstein said.  “An amendment has to be in keeping with the title of the bill. It has to be consistent,” she said. That is why she is not entirely certain this approach would be technically achievable.

 A new overlay could also impact development on the Central Delaware even if Council has not adopted it, Gladstein said, but Squilla would have to be comfortable enough to introduce the overlay legislation relatively soon. “If the Councilman chooses to introduce the new overlay, and it is voted out of Committee with a positive recommendation, it is considered a ‘pending ordinance’ that L&I must apply as if it is law,” Gladstein wrote in an email follow up to the interview. “Therefore, it is possible that there is enough time to get the bill out of Committee, and have it apply by August 22nd, even though it has not yet been finally approved by City Council.”

 Should none of the scenarios keeping the old overlay in place, or putting the new one in effect, happen, Gladstein said there would not be much time without an overlay in effect. Legislation introduced before break is still in the system in the fall, so a hearing could be set quickly, and a vote taken as few as two council sessions later, she said. So could developers slip in a project that didn’t meet the goals of the Master Plan?

 “Time wise, it would be a very small window,” she said. Gladstein also pointed out that for any large project, civic design review will be in place, as that is in the new code itself.

 

FIRST MAJOR LAND ACQUISITION FOR THE MASTER PLAN FOR THE CENTRAL DELAWARE

DRWC Acquires New Land for Future Wetlands Park and Multi-use Waterfront Recreational TrailWHEN: Tuesday June 6 at 2:30 p.m.
WHEN:
Tuesday June 6 at 2:30 p.m.
WHERE: Pier 70 Boulevard at the Delaware River
WHAT: As part of an important collaboration with Natural Lands Trust, DRWC to now officially control a large waterfront site to create a multi-use recreational trail and to create the southern anchor of a new ecological wetlands park, both of which are critical components of the Master Plan for the Central Delaware.

CONFIRMED SPEAKERS:
•    Mayor Michael Nutter, City of Philadelphia
•    Councilman Mark Squilla, First District, City of Philadelphia
•    Richard J. Allan, PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resounces Secretary
•    Tom Corcoran, President of Delaware River Waterfront Corporation
•    Molly Morrison, President of Natural Lands Trust

BACKGROUND: Natural Lands Trust received a $1.25M grant from PA DCNR to acquire waterfront piers and riparian lands on behalf of DRWC. The Pennsylvania Departmentof Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) awarded a $1.25 million grant to Natural Lands Trust on behalf of the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) to acquire a large waterfront site comprised of five acres of land and 11 acres of riparian lands at the end of Pier 70 Boulevard. Acquisition of this land was an essential first step to create the permanent multi-use recreational trail along the river and to create the southern anchor of a new ecological wetlands park, both of which are critical components of DRWC’s recently released Master Plan for the Central Delaware.

In late 2010, DRWC and Natural Lands Trust began collaboration on a joint application to DCNR to acquire this land at the southern end of DRWC’s Master Plan project area. The DCNR grant to Natural Lands Trust represents a portion of the property value. The property owners, Delaware Associates, L.P., contributed a matching amount in the form of a charitable donation.

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